This marinated tofu is hands down the best tofu I’ve ever tasted! It’s super flavorful, simple to make, and very versatile. I like to serve it on a bed of rice with stir fried vegetables, or even sliced in sandwiches. Perfect addition to salads, too!

marinated tofu in a bowl close up

As I’ve shared before, I live near Portland, Oregon. I’m about 30 minutes from the city, and honestly, with my kids and everything else going on, I don’t get to enjoy the bounty of vegan restaurants quite as often as I’d like. Several months ago, we ate at a place called the Bye and Bye, and they had the most delicious tofu. I got a BBQ tofu, brussels sprouts and rice bowl, and it was A-mazing. The tofu had flavor like I had never tasted! Flavor was infused all throughout each piece of tofu, and I decided I needed to find a way to re-create this deliciousness at home.

After several tries, I have finally perfected this flavorful marinated tofu. If you think tofu is bland, boring, or difficult to make, think again! I’ll teach you how to make the best tofu ever. I love serving this with rice and some stir fried vegetables, but it’s also good in sandwiches, on salads or simply as a high protein snack.

marinated tofu in a bowl with rice and green onions

How to press tofu quickly:

There are a few things you need to know about tofu. The most common way to buy it is packed in water. You usually need to press the tofu to drain most of the water, especially for stir fries or baked tofu. You can skip this step buy purchasing super firm tofu that is vacuum packed, not in water.

To press it very quickly, remove the tofu from the water pack and cut into cubes. Place the cubed tofu on a flat surface like a cutting board, lined with paper towels (or a clean tea towel.) Cover with more paper towels, a baking sheet, and then place something heavy on top like a cast iron skillet. This way, you only need to let it press for about 15 minutes while you make the marinade.

My set-up looked like this:

showing how to press tofu for marinated tofu, cast iron pan on sheet, tofu underneath

While it is pressing, combine the marinade ingredients in a small bowl. Once tofu is done pressing, place the cubes in a shallow baking dish and cover with the marinade. Let it marinate in the refrigerator for at least an hour, longer if desired.

showing pressed tofu pieces on paper towels and with marinade in a dish

How do you cook tofu after marinating it?

After the tofu has marinated, warm a few tablespoons of canola oil in a pan, cast iron preferred. Remove the tofu from the marinade, but do NOT discard the extra sauce. Place the tofu in the pan and fry until golden brown on all sides.

TIP: How to prevent tofu from sticking in the pan

The key to keep tofu from sticking to the bottom of a pan is this: when you first add the tofu cubes to the hot pan with oil coating the bottom, let them cook, without trying to move them AT ALL, for 3-4 minutes. They should get browned and crispy on the bottom by then, and will be much easier to flip. Repeat once you flip them. Do this instead of trying to move them around too much. Use a quality spatula to move them around in the pan, and be gentle.

Can I bake the tofu instead?

If you prefer to make this tofu oil free, it can be easier to bake them. It works well, they just won’t be as crispy as if you fried them. To bake, place the marinated tofu cubes on a silicone mat or a parchment paper lined baking sheet. Bake at 350 degrees F for 20 minutes, flip and bake 20 minutes more. To add extra flavor, quickly saute the baked tofu in a pan with the extra marinade.

marinated tofu being fried in a cast iron pan

Want more mouthwatering tofu recipes?

marinated tofu piece on a chopstick

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Recipe adapted from Genius Kitchen.

marinated tofu in a bowl close up
4.93 stars (184 ratings)

Marinated Tofu (The Best Tofu Ever!)

This marinated tofu is hands down the best tofu I've ever tasted! It's super flavorful, simple to make, and very versatile. I like to serve it on a bed of rice with stir fried vegetables, or even sliced in sandwiches. Perfect addition to salads, too!
Prep: 1 hr 20 mins
Cook: 10 mins
Total: 1 hr 30 mins
Servings: 4 servings

Ingredients 
 

  • 16 ounces extra-firm tofu
  • 4 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce
  • 3 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon pure maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon fresh grated ginger, OR 1/2 teaspoon dried ginger
  • 2-3 tablespoons neutral oil, such as canola

Instructions 

  • Quick press the tofu: Cut the tofu into cubes. Place them evenly on a flat surface such as a cutting board lined with paper towels or a clean towel. Cover with a layer of paper towels, set a baking sheet on top and then something heavy, like a large book or cast iron skillet. Press like this for 15 minutes while you make the marinade. 
  • Make the marinade: In a small bowl, combine the soy sauce, rice vinegar, maple syrup, sesame oil, garlic and ginger. 
  • Marinate the tofu: Place the pressed tofu pieces in a shallow dish. (In the photos above I doubled the recipe, so I used a 9 x 13 inch dish, but for one batch you will need a smaller dish, such as an 8 x 8 inch.) Pour the marinade over the tofu. Let it marinate for at least 1 hour, covered, in the refrigerator. If you want to leave it overnight, it will be even more flavorful.
  • Cook the tofu: In a large skillet, cast iron preferred, add a few tablespoons of a neutral oil, such as canola oil and heat over medium-high heat. You can omit the oil if needed, but you will need a very good non-stick pan so the tofu pieces don't stick. Remove the tofu pieces from the marinade and add to the pan. Do not discard the marinade sauce. Fry the tofu until golden brown on each side.
  • Once the tofu pieces are browned, pour any leftover marinade sauce into the pan with the tofu, and stir to coat. This makes the tofu even more flavorful! The tofu will quickly absorb the sauce. Remove from heat, and serve with rice and stir fried vegetables such as baby bok choy, mushrooms and carrots.
  • Store leftover tofu in a covered container in the refrigerator for 3-4 days. It's also good cold, as a high protein snack or in sandwiches and salads.

Video

Notes

  1. For gluten free, use tamari instead of soy sauce.
  2. You can also bake the tofu if you prefer. Place the tofu pieces on a silicone mat or parchment paper on a baking sheet, and bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. Flip the pieces and bake for 20 more minutes. To add more flavor after baking, quickly saute in a pan with the leftover marinade sauce; you won't need to use any oil.
  3. Instead of quick pressing, you could also press the whole block of tofu for at least an hour.
  4. This recipe can easily be doubled or even tripled, and stored in the refrigerator for 3-4 days, if it lasts that long! I always double it as my family gobbles it up fast.
  5. Nutrition information is for 1/4 of the tofu only, using 2 tablespoons of canola oil for frying.

Nutrition

Serving: 1serving | Calories: 161kcal | Carbohydrates: 8g | Protein: 9g | Fat: 10g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Sodium: 606mg | Potassium: 215mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 4g | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 46mg | Iron: 2mg
Course: Main Course, Side Dish
Cuisine: Japanese
Author: Nora Taylor
Did you make this recipe?Mention @nora_cooks_vegan_ or tag #noracooks!

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Comments

  1. Hi! I’m excited to try this on Sunday, it looks amazing! My question is whether we can cook the tofu on our Blackstone flat top  instead of in a pan. Will that work as well do you think? 
    Thank you!

    1. Thanks, I hope you enjoy it! Is that like a cast iron flat pan? I think it should work fine, as long as you let it cook for a few minutes before trying to flip it or move it around, as it can stick. And use oil for sure to grease the pan well. Hope that helps!

  2. This recipe is amazeballs! I’ve tried both pan fried and oven-baked, and both are absolutely delicious! The oven baked is great if you’re trying to cut back on oil/fat, and it’s a bit lower maintenance/less time consuming than frying, so I’ll probably stick with that going forward. But the pan fried definitely had a bit of extra punch!

    Thank you so much for this, it’s my new go-to for salads during the week. Gonna prep the tofu early in the week, and then just bake what I need each day!

    1. I’m so thrilled that you are loving the tofu and that it’s your new go to! I appreciate you taking your time to share your wonderful review and comments. Happy cooking!

  3. I’ve made this several times and we always love it! I usually cut the tofu widthwise and open it up like a book and press it that way. Our youngest son and I are on low-carb diets, so I substitute monkfruit sweetener for the maple syrup, and we use the finished fried tofu in fried cauliflower rice. (Pro tip, lol – If you have a salad shooter, it makes AWESOME cauliflower rice!)

    1. Hi Isa! You are welcome! I am glad you love the marinated tofu and that it is your go to recipe! Thanks for sharing your wonderful review!

  4. Thank you nora for sharing this recipe – very easy to make but definitely tasty! We love it so much that we have it on rotation.

    1. I’m thrilled to hear this recipe is on your meal rotation! Thanks so much for taking your time to share your review and comments! I’m glad you are enjoying the recipe!

  5. This was the first recipe I came across, when looking for a tofu recipe. I had never made it before, and this is really delicious. I can’t stop eating it!

    1. I’m so glad you are loving the tofu recipe! I hope you’ll try my other tofu recipes as well! Thanks so much for sharing your review and comments!

  6. Delicious! I would suggest doubling the marinade and save half of it to pour over the finished tofu and rice.

  7. Nora, you are amazing!!!  Yet another triumph!! We cook your recipes here all the time!! Keep them coming!! 

    1. Thank you, Amy! I appreciate you sharing your review, and for using my recipes! I’m glad you are loving them!

  8. I have never made a tofu stir fry, and tried my hand at this recipe tonight. I definitely won’t cut tofu into cubes when pan frying it, it is a bit unwieldy turning so many pieces.

    I fried the tofu, then stir fried peppers, carrots, broccoli, green beans, snap peas and zucchini with a kung pao sauce.

    The tofu: texture is nice. Taste by itself is honestly almost like cheese. With vegetables it is barely noticeable.

    Will add to the rotation!

  9. My fave! And my partner barbecues it too! I just make a little tray out of foil and barbecue the tofu as long as he is cooking the meat for.  No need for oil or spray on the foil because of the sesame oil.

    1. Sounds wonderful, Penny! I’m glad you are loving the tofu! Thank you for sharing your fun review and comments!

  10. Excellent taste and easy to make! I have never liked tofu..but this was wonderful even cold! Thank you.

    1. Tried this tonight and ended up cutting my tofu into thicker strips so I could grill them on the bbq and WOW!! The marinade is so simple but packs so much flavour. I couldn’t believe how yummy it was, probably one of the best tofu recipes I’ve eaten & will definitely be making again 🙂

  11. I love this recipe! I’ve made it at least 10 times now and always perfect. Though I use an Air Fryer to cook it and it works great. I also freeze my tofu as soon as I buy it so you can wring it out like a sponge (carefully) to get rid of the water – once thawed. 

    Thanks again!

    S

  12. So yummy! Thanks for the recipe! I’m kind of new to tofu, so I was wondering – I read that dredging the tofu in cornstarch can help it get crispy too. What do you think? After marinating, I assume?

    1. Sure, you could do that to make it crispier. But it will work best if you marinate, coat in cornstarch, then fry it in a pan with oil. If you bake it or fry it dry with cornstarch, it will be a little weird. Hope that helps!

  13. Nora, love this! I write an article for our neighborhood here in Idaho and I had a request for a savory recipe. Might I use your recipe and a picture? it is a publication of only 500 (500 homes) please advise if I have your permission. I would absolutely plug your website!

  14. This recipe is amazing!
    Rarely do I print off recipes anymore..but I couldn’t find this one night and I never want to be without it again.

  15. I made this and it was delicious!  I cooked  the tofu, exactly  according to directions and It crisps  up beautifully !  As a matter fact,  I tried it for a midnight snack, because I was hungry and it was very satisfying! I’m new to switching off meat, and I’m having a really easy time, with delicious recipes like this one. 
    Thank you! 🙂

  16. First I need to say thank you. I always had bad experiences in the past with tofu but not only was this easy to make, it was absolutely delicious. Switching to meat alternatives because of fatty liver disease scared me because I thought the things I would have to eat would tast bad but oh my goodness this was so good.

    1. Hi Ashley! You are welcome, and I am so glad that you loved the tofu! Made well, tofu is really delicious! There are so many fun ways to make it! Thank you for sharing your review!

  17. I found this recipe today and I made it today. I cannot stop eating it straight from the pan. This is definitely going to be a sweet repeat. Can’t wait to make this for my grandson!

    1. Hi Molly! Thanks for sharing your great review! I love the term ‘sweet repeat!’ I’m glad you love the tofu!

  18. You can try this by using fish sauce and a little bit of sugar instead of soy sauce, trust me it’s taste won’t let u disappointed

      1. Hi! I’d like to try this recipe. Can i sub the rice vinegar with white wine vinegar? If not, can i use regular white vinegar? Thanks!

        1. It won’t have quite the same flavor and it might taste pretty vinegary. You could just leave it out, or use just a little bit of vinegar.

  19. Nora, this really is the best tofu recipe! Thanks for getting me over my fear of cooking tofu. I made it specifically for veggie spring rolls but my boyfriend and I ate half of it straight from the pan 🙂 

    1. Hi Carmen! I’m glad you guys loved the tofu! There are so many fun and delicious ways to cook tofu. I hope you’ll check out some of my other tofu recipes1. Thanks for taking time to share your wonderful review and comments!

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